We’ve all been there. Giddy with excitement at the promise of a fresh start, you jot down your resolutions for the New Year.
Yep, you’re going to lose 5kg. Finally make a real attempt at learning German. And you’re going to overhaul your business strategy like the trailblazing entrepreneur you are.
...Then the new year actually comes. Still reeling from Christmas and New Years you crawl back to work feeling a bit like the walking dead. You slump at your desk and stare at numbers in a haze.
How can you stick to your New Year’s resolutions - both personal and professional - when it's already February the daily routine kicks in and you’re again swamped by the tasks of running a business?
Sadly, there’s no magic pill for boosting willpower (if there was I’d be buying shares), but apply these strategies and you’ll have a greater chance of achieving your goals.
Step 1: Define Your ‘Why’
These are the most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions:
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Get out of debt
- Learn a language (or instrument)
- Spend more time with family
Sure, they’re well intentioned. So why do they fail? Because they’re generally motivated by a feeling of guilt. “I should lose weight so I don’t look unhealthy.” “I should spend more time with my kids.” “I should learn a language so my brain doesn’t go to mush.”
Unfortunately, guilt is not a powerful motivator. Neither is doing something because you feel like you should. So what’s the alternative?
The easiest goals to keep are those driven by passion, enjoyment and a reward at the end of the journey. You need to incentivise your resolution so you have something to strive towards. Any ‘how’ is possible, if you have a powerful ‘why’.
This means you need to pick a goal you truly want to achieve, and keep visualising the rewards. You’re more likely to practice German if you’ve penciled in a trip to Europe for the end of the year. Your weight loss goals are more likely to stick if you’re working towards a specific marathon or sporting event where you can showcase your results. Find a purpose that really gets you going.
If it’s a business goal you’re struggling with you should also try visualising the rewards. If you hit that 10% profit margin increase by the end of the year, or boost your customer retention rates by 25%, what are the tangible benefits you’ll experience? Will it allow you to work shorter days at the office? Will you take some time off for a trip with your family?
If your business resolutions require effort from all staff members, make sure they have equal incentives. Break your business goal into achievable stages and plan a team celebration at each milestone, culminating with a big one at the end of the year. Your team needs a passionate ‘why’ as much as you do.
Step 2: Set SMART Goals
There’s no point making wishy-washy, vague commitments in either your personal or professional life - you’ll just abandon them in 2 weeks time.
SMART is a simple methodology but extremely popular, because it works. It can help to transform your broad NY resolutions into defined and tangible goals.
SMART goals should meet the following criteria:
- Specific: Exactly what are you trying to accomplish? Define exactly what your end result should look like.
- Measurable: How will you measure success? What are your milestones along the way? Think percentages and numbers.
- Attainable: Is your goal realistic? Can you achieve it without compromising other commitments?
- Relevant: Does the goal fit with your business model?
- Time-Based: When do you plan to achieve it by? There’s nothing more demotivating than a goal without a defined end.
Creating and recording SMART goals gives you a much greater chance of achieving your personal and professional resolutions.
Step 3: Make Yourself Accountable
For personal goals, find a buddy who will hold you accountable to your resolutions. Tell them what you plan to achieve, your timeline for doing it, and schedule regular phone calls or coffee dates with them. Share your progress with him or her every step of the way. Offer to do the same and help them keep their resolutions in return.
Social media is also a powerful tool for staying motivated. A simple post on Facebook or Twitter can make your intentions very public, and increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to your goals. Give people permission to ask for updates if you go quiet! Or keep a blog documenting your progress and invite friends and family to subscribe.
For business goals, the same concept of accountability applies. Your resolutions and targets should be shared with your team and all relevant stakeholders. Schedule meetings and updates as your team work towards specific milestones.
Using a project board app like Trello can help to create greater visibility within your team. You could even put up an old-school pinboard with post-it notes so it's right in front of you every morning. As Uncle Iroh once said, it's important to believe in yourself - but a little help from others goes a long way.
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to challenge yourself and bring permanent, positive change into your life. But nothing worth doing is ever easy. If you follow these steps and keep a powerful ‘why’ in mind at all times you’ll have a much higher chance of success. Remember, dreams don't work unless you do. Good luck!